Pizza 4P’s is trying to carry out environmentally-conscious projects step by step in order to achieve the vision “Make the World Smile for Peace”. We started our original article series “Peace for Earth” focusing on such sustainable projects in our company.
The topic of this article will focus on sustainable agriculture. We marked our 10th year anniversary in May 2021. To celebrate this milestone year, a project was launched to create a special pizza for a limited time to show appreciation for the past 10 years. The pizza is made with vegetables grown at the organic farm that Pizza 4P’s has been partnering with for many years. We will share the background and commitment to making this special pizza, and other real-life scenes of a company engaged in sustainable action in Vietnam.
Let’s talk about the future of sustainable food
Just after the Vietnamese Tet New Year (February) of 2021, the menu development team at Pizza 4P’s asked me for advice. d to know if they could create a special pizza for the occasion, as Pizza 4P’s would be celebrating its 10th anniversary in May of the same year. There were two directions to consider for this pizza. One was to express our gratitude for the past 10 years, and the other was to show the direction of Pizza 4P’s for the next 10 years.
The idea that I came up with to fulfill these two directions was to collaborate with Thien Sinh Farm, which is one of Pizza 4P’s partner farms. Thien Sinh Farm is an organic farm in Lam Dong Province in the highlands of Vietnam, and has been supplying vegetables such as arugula and kale to Pizza 4P’s for many years. I wondered if it would be possible to create a pizza that would remind people of the future of sustainable food by using a lot of vegetables from this farm.
Thien Sinh Farm is a farm located in Dong Duong District, Lam Dong Province. It is about an hour’s drive from the city of Dalat, a popular town for tourists. In addition to arugula and kale used at Pizza 4P’s, the 14-hectare farm is also growing cherry tomatoes, large tomatoes, corn, leaf lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, carrots, radishes, and onions are growing vigorously.
Practice of Circular Agriculture in Vietnam
The farm was jointly established by Mr. Thang, a Vietnamese, and Mr. Hama, a Japanese, ten years ago. Mr. Thang looks back on those early days.
Mr. Thang: “I used to be an ordinary farmer, not an organic farmer. But after a while, I realized that the use of chemical pesticides is harmful to myself, the workers, and especially to the consumers. It was in 2006 that I met a Japanese friend (Mr. Hama) who was an expert in organic farming, just as I was thinking about how to reduce the use of chemicals. From there, I started researching organic farming. Five years later, in 2011, I established Thien Sinh Farm.
Author: “I didn’t know that! By the way, can you tell us about the uniqueness of Thien Sinh Farm?”
Mr. Thang: “The biggest difference between us and other farms is that we are a self-sustained farm. I think most farms have to purchase agricultural materials from outside, but here we even make the tools ourselves. We even made all the greenhouses there by ourselves. By producing the greenhouses with our own hands, we are able to make greenhouses that are suitable for our cultivation and that will last for a long time. All the waste generated on the farm can be reused as fertilizer. By minimizing external influences, we can prevent input prices from rising, and at the same time our staff can improve their skills.”
Mr. Thang explained in a matter-of-fact manner as if it were a matter of course, but in all the times I have visited organic farms in Vietnam, I have never seen such a well structured circular model farm.
Author: “Speaking of reusing waste, you also use whey from Pizza 4P’s cheese factory, don’t you?”
Mr. Hama: “Yes, whey contains a lot of nutrients, so we mix it with useful microorganisms and give it to the cows to drink. They drink it a lot, so I think it has an effect on their bowels. We also use it to promote fermentation of compost and to produce liquid fertilizer. For us, whey is one of the most important materials that contribute to the revitalization of the soil.”
Whey, a byproduct of the cheese making process, has a very high concentration as sewage, and according to Vietnam’s environmental standards, it is not allowed to be discharged into the sewage system. This is why Pizza 4P’s is very grateful to Thien Sinh Farm for collecting it.
Be a good farm for the community
Author: “Are the people who work here local people?”
Mr. Thang: “Currently, there are about 45 staff members at the farm. Characteristically, about 70% of them are from the local ethnic minority groups, the Co Ho and Chu Ru. The fact that this farm is able to provide jobs and skills to them also helps to stabilize the society as a whole. I think that nurturing people who may be struggling to make their communities better with this farm is something that society needs right now.”
While Vietnam has experienced remarkable economic development in recent years, the lives of ethnic minorities living in rural and mountainous areas have been left behind by the economic growth, which has become a social problem. Thien Sinh Farm aims to teach organic farming to these people so that they can become independent in the future. This is a very valuable initiative for Vietnamese society as a whole.
We are unaware of the impact of agriculture on the natural environment
The reason why the current food system is considered unsustainable is largely because the agriculture that supplies the food is unsustainable. Excessive use of pesticides and fertilizers causes soil and water pollution and destroys the surrounding ecosystems. Fields that depend on chemical fertilizers require more fertilizers and pesticides, and the quality of the soil there deteriorates. As a result, new land needs to be cleared, and deforestation will only increase. This not only reduces the forests, which are a major sink for carbon dioxide, but also displaces the plants and animals that live there. Thus, unsustainable agriculture continues to damage the natural environment by creating an ecological disaster.
And more importantly, it is the end consumers living in cities that are supporting this unsustainable agriculture. This includes, of course, restaurants like ours.
However, I wonder how many of us are aware of the impact of agriculture on the natural environment. I dare to say that our self-consciousness about the impact of agriculture on the natural environment is supported by our desire for “cheap” food. This is because in order to make food cheaper, we have to mass-produce it on a large scale, use pesticides and chemical fertilizers to increase efficiency, and eliminate “pesticide-free” and “organically grown” products that require a lot of work. In this way, agriculture continues to damage the natural environment by creating demand without us, the consumers, being aware of it.
With this in mind, I wondered if this 10th anniversary pizza could inspire people to think about sustainable agriculture. This is in line with the original direction of Pizza 4P’s in that it embodies our gratitude to our long-time partner farm, Thien Sinh Farm, and the culinary concept that Pizza 4P’s is aiming for in the future.
We thought it was important to use a lot of vegetables from Thien Sinh Farm, which practices sustainable agriculture, in order to make the eaters think about sustainable agriculture. The head chef of Pizza 4P’s and Mr. Hama of Thien Sinh Farm then had a meeting and selected several vegetable candidates. and other vegetables from the same farm were used as toppings.
In addition, there is one more super-important ingredient for this pizza, sourced from the same farm. It is beef.
Bresaola made from happy cows
Thien Sinh Farm has a small barn on the farm with 45 cows. These cows are raised to produce cow manure, the core of the compost material. In order to grow vegetables organically, good quality organic compost is essential, and Thien Sinh Farm makes its own organic compost. While some other organic farms in Vietnam are just importing ready-made organic compost from overseas, I feel that Thien Sinh Farm’s commitment to sustainable farming is very thorough.
When I was preparing and finding ingredients for our 10th Year Pizza, Mr. Hama accidentally shared with me that Mr. Thang has devoted a lot of his love taking care of these cows and felt sad that one of them is getting really old. So he was thinking about how to say goodbye to the cow in a meaningful way.
Suddenly, I thought of a way to convey this message of sustainable food to everyone, I asked Thien Sinh Farm whether we could use this cow for our 10th Anniversary Pizza, they happily agreed to the idea.
To be honest, however, I had some concerns about using beef for pizza. Because eating beef has become a taboo among sustainable-minded people in recent years due to its high impact on climate change and criticism of the current meat production system, which has become too industrialized. However, I still felt that this was an idea worth trying.
The reason is that the farm is not a large-scale industrialized livestock farm. They need cow manure to produce the high quality compost needed to grow organic vegetables, and they have 45 cows to produce the manure. Cows that are raised in a clean and healthy environment are less susceptible to diseases, so the use of hormones to increase production efficiency, the rearing of a large number of cattle crammed into a small barn do not occur here. Additionally, treating with antibiotics is also not needed here.
In addition, cows are usually fed imported grain feed, but considering the large amount of pesticides used in such imported grains and the carbon footprint of the transportation process, Thien Sinh Farm only feeds corn and grass grown on the farm. Of course, no pesticides are used.
Above all, Mr. Thang, the owner of the farm, is truly amazing in the way he loves his cows. He loves and cares for his cows as if they were his own family. His love for his cows is more than just “animal welfare”, as is often claimed. I have visited Thien Sinh Farm many times, and each time I have been impressed by how happy the cows seem to be.
In other words, the common “mass-produced beef” and the “single cow that was carefully raised at Thien Sinh Farm” are completely different things.
In the past, cows were grazed in open pastures, eating grass instead of grain, and their manure was returned directly to the earth to nourish new plants. Originally, cows were supposed to be a good partner for humans in recycling-oriented agriculture. Today, cattle are being industrialized for the convenience of humans and are being blamed for climate change.
In recent years, a sense of “eating beef” has been emerging among environmentally conscious people, but I think we should focus our discussion more on what kind of farming methods are used to produce the meat, rather than on whether or not to eat it. I believe that restaurants are the ones that can pose such questions to people.
In this way, the beef from Thien Sinh Farm was handed over to the head chef of Pizza 4P’s, where it was aged for two months before being processed into “Bresaola”, a cured beef ham.
Incidentally, the ingredients used to make the bresaola were all Vietnamese. Vodka from Vietnam, sea salt made in the traditional way in Khanh Hoa Province, and organic pepper from Phu Quoc Island were all used.
Vegetables from Thien Sinh Farm, Pizza 4P’s homemade cheese, and thinly sliced bresaola like flower petals overlapped each other on the pizza.
I was also able to eat this pizza. With each slice of pizza, I could feel the different textures of the vegetables in my mouth, and the smoky flavor of the bresaola combined with the creamy homemade cheese, it was like eating the whole farm of Thien Sinh Farm.
Toward a Sustainable Food System
In mid-April 2021, Pizza 4P’s launched this collaboration pizza with Thien Sinh Farm as “10TH YEAR GRATITUDE PIZZA” to commemorate its 10th anniversary. Due to the limited amount of bresaola from the farm’s “happy cows”, the pizza was only available at the Hai Ba Trung store in Ho Chi Minh City and the Trang Tien store in Hanoi for a limited time of about two weeks, with a daily limit of 10 servings at each store.
The vegetables and beef from Thien Sinh Farm used in the pizza were posted on Pizza 4P’s social media. The Facebook post received nearly 2,000 likes, and we feel that we were able to convey our message to a large number of people.
Customers who actually tasted the pizza said, “Great concept!” and “The baked kale, morning glory, the texture of the ingredients … Delicious!”.
The relationship between a restaurant and its suppliers can sometimes be a bleak one of “buyer and seller”. However, in order to change the current unsustainable food system, it is necessary for both parties to work together. Without sustainable ingredients, restaurants cannot create sustainable dishes. On the other hand, without understanding and demand from consumers, producers cannot continue sustainable agriculture. I would like to continue to think about the relationship between producers and restaurants, so that they can be close to each other and work together to create a more sustainable food system.
To be honest, Pizza 4P’s has only been able to procure a small portion of ingredients that are produced using sustainable farming methods. However, over the next 10 years, we would like to create a wide variety of dishes with a similar concept of our 10th Year pizza available on the grand menu of restaurants. We still have a long way to go, but Pizza 4P’s will continue to take on the challenge of creating a sustainable food system in Vietnam.